Monday, September 22, 2008

Jesus and the Money Changers

Temple practices that hooked the poor on high interest credit and drove them into debt were the target of Jesus' anger. I knew that his cleansing wasn't simply a reaction to monied interests too close to the Holy of Holies. It makes more sense to understand his tirade as giving Sabbath a "fighting chance." Rev. Thistlewaite's development of this idea is an excellent interpretation that should never be avoided when preaching this Gospel.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Formula for Fun-damn-mentalisn*

In an excellent critique of Gov. Palin's stumble following Charlie Gibson's question about the Bush Doctrine, James Fallows provides the basic formula for the current crop of hard right conservatives and religious right believers in America. Episcopalians would call this the three-legged-stool of fundamentalism.

  1. Ignorance
  2. Lack of curiosity
  3. "Decisiveness"

Palin's and Bush's "ignorances" are equal to each other and analogous to those of any "believer" who doesn't know how the collection of writings called the Bible came together, for instance.  In both political and religious veins the result is a fallacy of "unitary" authority.  Loyalty, sincerity and zeal replace wisdom and knowledge as first requirements for membership.  One rises to ceremonial leadership by exposing their own emptiness. (Don't forget who really pulls the strings.)

It takes about one second of inspection to recognize fundamentalism's lack of curiosity.  It has all kinds of expressions .  One is the striking similarity between fundies disdain for an "educated clergy" and the folksiness of Bush and Palin.  

Check here and click on the FAQ link (you'll need a flash player) to marvel at what Palin's church's Masters Commission graduates call a curriculum.   NO Greek, NO Hebrew, NO documentary hypothesis, NO historic criticism, NO multiple translations, NO church history.  Yet from this training are sent men into their version of ordained leadership. I can't find any evidence that women graduates are allowed the same authority status.  Apparently, study is not meant to cultivate or even allow curiosity but to limit it to a pre-ordained simplification that is repeated in a one size fits all mantra.  In this world Palin's folksiness becomes MC Crew with spray paint and laptops.  

Fallow's three part formula becomes a three cornered web as "Decisiveness" describes the balancing between real experience and doctrine.  It is an imitation of resolve which "doesn't blink."  It answers back before the questions are finished with a mantra or a snicker.  It maintains the ignorance so important to daily management in a world that once expected and in some more liberal circles still expects knowledge and wisdom of its leaders.  Decisiveness asserts itself before all the answers are in, holding at bay the curiosity that is so cumbersome and even dangerous to the unitary character of authority.  In the end both fundies and conservatives have to keep repeating themselves whether what they are saying is true or makes any sense at all. 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Jesus was a Community Organizer

The recent events orchestrated in St. Paul, MN to mock Barack Obama's pre-law school work in Chicago's Southside to help unemployed steel workers to find jobs, to set up childcare for poor families so they can work, or to find healthcare for the uninsured were offensive to many of my fellow Athenians, especially those who have performed similar acts of community service here in one of Georgia's poorest counties. 

Why the snide and cynical remarks from Mayor Giuliani and Govenor Palin?  Except to lower the bar for themselves and those who would vote for their candidate, there is no good reason.  Rovian scoffing that turns shrill from the lips of Governor Palin and just plain disingenuous when Giuliani asks "what's that?" has lost its currency along with the US dollar.  It will not work for much longer to keep acting like the world is too bad to be helped by the good done by teachers, coaches, "Y" directors, social workers of all stripes, legal services providers, pregnancy counselors, drug counselors, CASA workers, visitation supervisors. 

Saying that "Jesus was a community organizer" makes no claims to Obama being a Messiah or the One as those same cynics have tried to box him and his supporters.  (The Charlton Heston image was ironic at best if not plain offensive.)  Instead, the reminder of the work of the first century rabbi  properly recognizes and claims for many voters the very hope that gets us to do things like vote in the first place.  

Plus, trying to get most voters to laugh at Obama's excellent resume and its emergent hope is a failure at framing.  It fails because of who has been chosen to deliver the remarks, so far they've all claimed to be followers of the very one whose "community organizing" is world renowned.  It fails because the facts -- both those that confirm the quality of Obama's work along with those that confirm how well protected from their individual failings the speakers have been -- can be checked too easily.  Finally it fails because Obama actually was a community organizer and too many voters know how good a thing that has been.